Vietnams porn smokescreen

The OpenNet Initiative has published a report into online censorship in Vietnam. Their main finding is that, although the government claims it only wants to deny access to online pornography, it is actually far more interested in blocking access to political and religious websites.

The report, published last week, says the government is using increasingly sophisticated filtering techniques to block access to sites that could threaten the countrys one-party system, on topics such as political dissidents, democracy and Buddhism.

Sites written in Vietnamese are far more likely to be blocked than those in English. Internet usage in cybercafes, the most common way to access the web in Vietnam, is checked regularly, the report says.

The report is the latest in a series of case studies that address Internet filtering by states worldwide and you can read it in full by clicking here.

Regulating the right to be informed

Vietnams communist government has issued strict new press regulations that punish denying revolutionary achievements and require journalists to have articles reviewed before publication.

The new Decree on Cultural and Information Activities follows aggressive reporting in Vietnams state-controlled press of a massive corruption scandal that forced the resignation of the transport minister and the arrest of his deputy over embezzlement of some 7 million dollars in state funds.

The press regulations came even as Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, in a speech to the National Assembly before his retirement, called for measures to ensure transparency and openness of state agencies.

Holding press conferences, I think, must become a regular activity of administrative agencies, Khai said, but added that the peoples right to be informed must be clearly regulated.

Under the new rules, Vietnamese journalists face fines of up to 3 million dong ($190) for publishing stories with anonymous sources and up to 7 million dong ($450) for refusing to allow an interviewee to read an article before publication.

Disseminating reactionary ideology is banned, along with any articles that reveal Party secrets, state secrets, military secrets and economic secrets, which carry fines of up to 30 million dong ( 2,000 dollars).

Vietnam already has criminal laws on the books that punish revealing state secrets with up to 15 years in prison.

Vietnamese journalists can also be fined for defaming national heroes, although the decree does not spell out who is a national hero.

Inevitably, the Vietnames government - in the form of the Ministry of Culture and Information Inspection Department - has assigned itself the role of deciding who is or isnt a national hero.